Kerry Washington wakes up early. I learn this when her publicist emails to ask if I’d like to do pilates with the actress at 6:30 a.m. before we sit down for our interview. A cursory Google search of Washington suggests I’m in trouble: This is, after all, a woman who moved to India after college and became certified as a yoga instructor. But my fear of pilates-induced humiliation is outweighed by my desire to watch Olivia Pope work out.
Washington, 38, arrives in sweats, with no makeup and no entourage, looking infinitely more relaxed than the character she plays on television. She’s a new mother with a hit show, but her face betrays none of the stress that must entail. Instead, her skin glows, her smile is bright, her eyes somehow managing to convey warmth, strength and vulnerability all at once.
“Hi, I’m Kerry,” she says, extending her hand to meet mine. We are on the Scandal set in Hollywood, standing in a dressing room that has been converted into a small gym for the actress. The space houses a pilates machine, blocks, resistance bands and a smattering of free weights. Washington’s trainer, Julie Turner, arrives, and they begin a quick exchange about the day’s workout; their shorthand has been honed by two to six pilates sessions a week for the past five years.
Though she and the other Scandal actresses have made regular hikes around Los Angeles a group ritual, pilates is Washington’s anchor. “There are a lot of forms of exercise where you have to leave yourself out of the room while you force yourself to do this thing,” she explains. “With pilates, I get to bring my true self. I cry, I laugh. I get to go: Where is my body today? What do I need today? How can I take care of myself and push myself past my comfort zone? How can I be both loving and challenging?”
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